chapter  9
The internet is always awake
Sensations, sounds and silences of the digital grave
ByAmanda Lagerkvist
Pages 21

Communication with the dead is a chief example of incommensurate dialogue and hence of existential communication. Graves are media of absence, and, as such, existential media. By contrast, today, the traces of the dead are abundantly present on online memorials. Among networked populations, furthermore, the dead are both online and they are getting the message. This chapter asks questions about whether web memorials can be existential media, by probing the particularities and peculiarities of the digital dead. Studies on vernacular religion have recently noted that in the online context the dead are described as angels with agency (see Walter 2016). But in this chapter, the author emphasizes that whatever agency the dead may have, they are at the same time mute – a bunch of lurkers loitering about. The author suggests that the dead mimic the leading social media platform of our age. Hence, in relation to the history of electronic presence, digital media seem to embody the transcendent by enabling connective presence per se, and one-way communication with the dead. As opposed to the spiritual telegraph, for instance, there is no expectation of receiving an answer from the grave. At the same time, the dead can be fully connected to. The chapter analyzes the dead online in light of the network as a ritualistic ‘totem’ – a universally presenced, numinous and all-enveloping force, that is always there, awake and watching – offering techno-spiritual sensations of the digital dead.